Clinics & Workshops
Anton Schwartz offers open-ended question-and-answer style masterclasses, and has designed and taught dozens of highly successful, focused workshops on a wide range of topics. He is highly organized, but often does not refer to any notes while lecturing. He enjoys fielding questions and demonstrating concepts on the piano and saxophone.
[See Anton’s resume for more information about his experience as an educator and performer.]
Below are a number of the workshops he has taught in the past.
Developing your Ballad Skills
The slow songs of the jazz repertoire may be less technically demanding than their faster counterparts, but they require special skills and arguably greater artistry to play credibly. In this workshop we tackle those skills head on, focusing on phrasing and feel, and outline practical avenues for improving your artistry. We also explore rubato, cadenzas and double-time feel as time allows.
Prerequisites: facility on a melodic instrument or vocals, improvisational experience, and knowledge of basic jazz harmony.
Transcription: Building Musicianship
Most jazz musicians recognize the enormous benefits of transcribing solos, but relatively few go about it in a way that lets them reap those benefits. In this workshop we address how to transcribe solos and other music passages for both efficiency and maximum learning, demonstrating the principles through actual transcription in class.
Prerequisites: basic knowledge of music theory and jazz harmony.
→ See also Anton’s blog post on transcribing.
Ear Training for Songs
Listen to enough jazz standards and you’ll start to recognize the same recurring building blocks that comprise the bulk of their chord changes. Familiarity with them can make learning songs much easier, and be invaluable in composing. In this workshop the instructor will present a number of harmonic devices found in songs, and work with the students on identifying them by ear.
Prerequisites: working knowledge of music theory and jazz harmony.
Altered Dominant and Dominant 13♭9 Chords:
The How, When and Why of Using Them
These two chords provide rich colors that are essential to the palette of intermediate and advanced jazz players. This workshop takes a deep look at the chords and their accompanying scales, examining how each is constructed, why they are constructed that way, and how they may be used to maximal effect. Their sounds are contrasted within the context of jazz (e.g. when should one be used rather than the other?), listening to examples of their use. Additional topics include: different types of “outness”; and lydian dominant, the “sister” of the altered sound. This workshop is appropriate for students without prior exposure to the subject, as well as students familiar with melodic minor and diminished harmony who wish to deepen their understanding. Guaranteed to show you ways of thinking about these chords that you haven’t seen before.
Prerequisite: an understanding of basic theory and the mixolydian scale.
Sus Chords: The How, When and Why of Using Them
A deep look at suspended dominant chords. We discuss how they operate and listen to examples of their use. Topics include: traditional versus modern use, sus-flat-9, sus-add-3, relation to II-V-I progressions, techniques for improvisation.
Prerequisite: basic music theory.
→ See also Anton’s blog post on sus chords, and its sequel.
Practicing Better for More Free Time
Musical mastery requires a lot of time. So let’s not waste any more time practicing the wrong way. In recent years, psychological experiments on skill acquisition have given a lot of new results about how to develop memories and skills that last… and some of them are quite powerful and counterintuitive. Let’s talk about what they mean for practicing music.
Expanding our Rhythmic Freedom
How many of us feel trapped by our own rhythmic habits when we improvise? Our rhythmic ideas fit neatly into the measures like nicely stacked boxes. We know our playing could be much freer and more exciting, but we just can’t seem to find a path to get there. Perhaps we’ve tried to introduce polyrhythms into our playing but find that things fall apart when attempt them. In this workshop we’ll explore polyrhythmic elements, and learn to assimilate them in an incremental process, whereby we can avoid the “brain meltdown” that can come from attempting a new polyrhythm all at once. The result is a rhythmic concept that is both freer and more solid.
Improvising with Pentatonics
A theoretical and practical look at pentatonic (five-note) scales and their role in jazz, paying particular attention to the many ways we can use them to great effect in our solos. We lay out the theory behind them from the ground up, show how they may be used in myriad harmonic contexts, and discuss exactly how it is that such a simple harmonic tool (they are the basis of some of the simplest folk melodies around the world) can be used so powerfully in modern music to create so many so many colors and degrees of tension and dissonance.
Prerequisites: A basic understanding of chords and seven-note scales is required; familiarity with advanced harmony (altered, lydian, etc.) is desirable.
→ See also Anton’s blog post on pentatonics.
Improvising with Triad Pairs
A particular sound can be achieved by constructing musical phrases using a six-note scale and grouping the six notes into two triads. It’s a sound most closely associated with John Coltrane, and first discussed extensively by Walt Weiskopf. In this workshop we discuss this technique of triad pairs and how it departs from the pre-1960 jazz vocabulary. We explore its harmonic foundations and it various uses, and learn tips for integrating it into our improvisations.
Prerequisites: An understanding of chords and seven-note scales is required; familiarity with advanced harmony (altered, lydian, etc.) is desirable.
Recipes for Success as an Independent Jazz Artist
Mr. Schwartz has run this workshop over a dozen times, with durations ranging everywhere from one hour to two days (twelve hours).
A practical look at how to build your career in music. Whether you have you have several CDs and years of gigs under your belt or you’re just getting started and have never recorded, this workshop is guaranteed to let you understand the music business—and your place in it—in ways you never had before. Subjects include building your fan base, social media, getting gigs, dealing with club owners, selling and distributing your music, the role of a CD, conventional and digital sales, radio airplay and promotion, getting reviews and interviews. We’ll have fun while we cover plenty of territory, with lots of good anecdotes and inside information!
Beyond the Blues Scale
Designed for players accustomed to using a single scale for each song they improvise over, this interactive workshop introduces participants to the rich experience of improvising over changing harmony. The leap from jamming over a chord or a blues scale to playing meaningfully over moving chords can be overwhelming; this workshop breaks it down through progressive exercises that allow students to hear and feel the changes of harmony, paving the way for students to play over chord changes as a natural expression of emotion rather than an intellectual exercise. Participants learn to improvise over a 12-bar blues like a jazz musician, bringing out the unique sound of each part of the blues form, rather than treating it all as an undifferentiated whole.
Prerequisites: knowledge of major and minor scales and facility on a melodic instrument.
Happy Endings: The Art of Ending a Tune
The final moments of a song are crucial to the lasting impression it leaves. This workshop for both rhythm section players and soloists addresses all the practical elements of pulling it off in style. Topics include: ritards, taking harmonic cues, playing over single and multiple fermatas, arranged endings, endings on the fly, nonverbal band communication. Bring your instruments, as there will be ample playing and critique!
Prerequisites: Experience performing songs and improvising.
Playing the Heck out of _____
This is a series of workshops that Mr. Schwartz has offered on many occasions. Each workshop targets a different song, examining the song’s harmony in ways that will directly help us improvise over it, discussing the chord progression on both a micro level (how each chord leads to the next) and a big-picture level (how they all work together to form a coherent song). Suggestions are given for ways to mentally simplify the song’s structure, as well as a variety of ways to embellish to the chord changes. Students optionally improvise over the song and are critiqued, with recommendations given for a direct path to improvement.
A few of the songs he has offered: Autumn Leaves, Blue Bossa, Con Alma, There Will Never Be Another You, St. Thomas, Wave.
Math for Jazz Music
Modular Arithmetic. Mutually Prime. Rotational Symmetry. Have I lost you yet? Terms like these are foreign to most of us, but what they stand for are things that, as musicians, we unknowingly deal with all the time. Let’s get our geek on and learn some new ways of talking about harmony and rhythm… ways that we can put to powerful use in better understanding and internalizing the music we play.
Prerequisite: familiarity with basic musical concepts such as chord types and the circle of fifths.
Saxophone Masterclass: Sound Like a Professional
What is it about the playing of a great jazz saxophonist that makes it sound so fluid and professional? Tone, intonation, time and note choice are all important, but they are not enough. In this workshop we observe and discuss in close detail many of the choices of note attack, emphasis, contour, duration, and release that differentiate a master from an average player. Students will be critiqued and interactively guided by the instructor to overcome their individual obstacles.
Participation is encouraged but not required. Participating attendees will be given an étude to play for critique, available in advance for those who wish to prepare it. Those who find the étude difficult are welcome to prepare it at a slower tempo, or prepare a different piece of their choice.
How the Saxophone Really Works
Think you know how your woodwind instrument works? Think again. This workshop explores the physical aspects of how saxophones and other woodwinds create the sounds that they do, with practical applications for players. Topics include: modes of vibration; size & placement of toneholes; the physics of register keys and overtones; false fingerings; how altissimo works; and the role of the airstream. Students may try various techniques such as growling, false fingerings, harmonics and glissando, and discuss them in light of the physics of the instrument. Bring your instrument and your curiosity!
Making the Saxophone Swing
This workshop for woodwind players explores how to make your phrases swing from a technical standpoint. Anton Schwartz presents different flavors of swinging, from down and dirty to light and nimble, and considers the various tools used to create them: rhythmic variation, accents, articulations and inflections. Participants listen to recorded examples and live demonstrations, and apply the ideas on their instruments. Appropriate for saxophonists, flutists and clarinetists. Bring your instrument (optional but encouraged).
[See Anton’s resume for more information about his experience as an educator and performer.]
[return to Anton’s Jazz Education Page]